Arthas Rework by Murraythehuman

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Arthas Rework

By: Murraythehuman
Last Updated: Jul 15, 2022
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Arthas Rework

Become the Tank of Death

In light of recent news (most painfully the information that a functional Arthas Rework and model change were very close to completion), I've decided to finally take a look at reworking a hero who has long since fallen out of fashion. While some people like to throw out the term "dated" when talking about hero designs a bit willy-nilly, I think in the case of Arthas that term fits perfectly.

Arthas was designed back when the design ethos of HotS featured an increased focus on checks and counters. "Cassia is good against AA heroes, Anub'arak is the anti-mage Tank, Tychus counters tanks, and some heroes even have innate resistances to certain damage types". Since then, HotS has instead tried to focus on making every hero have as close to an even matchup with everyone else as was possible. Counters are inevitably going to exist, but they wanted to avoid exacerbating it.

Arthas is a perfect example of a hero who was designed to be a counter hero. His core ability, Frozen Tempest, sees him lowering the AA damage of anyone near him, allowing him to effectively shut down characters like Raynor or Illidan should he position himself on top of them, while he and his team whittle them down. He does this very effectively, but outside of this niche, he is a hero who very much struggles do perform his role as a tank.

Additionally, Arthas has some abilities that aren't particularly fun to use. Frostmourne Hungers is one of the most basic and underwhelming traits in the game outside of its dedicated quest build, while Death Coil features very little in the way of meaningful playmaking or skill expression. While the hero does have Frozen Tempest, which rewards the hero for good mana management and positioning (and feels great when you lock down enemies with it), the fact that a good portion of its power comes from weakening an attribute that not all heroes rely on hurts it considerably.

Pain Points
  • Designed as a counter hero, which doesn't match the current ethos of the game.
  • Abilities can feel lacking in meaningful skill expression and impact.
  • Cannot perform the task of a tank due to low peel, low engage, and limited teamfight survivability.

Areas to Respect
  • The flavor of Arthas is as a looming presence who becomes terrifying once he reaches you, as such, a key part of his unique identity as a tank is a lack of mobility.
  • Death Coil is boring, but the attribute of "damage or survivability" is a unique one, so push it.
  • Frozen Tempest should be a core element to the identity of Arthas.

  • Make Arthas function as a tank without changing his kit too much. A new peel is necessary.
  • Increase the skill expression on Arthas's baseline abilities.
  • Make Arthas have viable tools that work on all archetypes, not just certain assassins.

Combat Trait

Frozen Tempest
Cooldown: 90 seconds. This ability starts the game on cooldown.

Surround Arthas in chilling winds that last for 6 seconds. Enemies standing in Frozen Tempest take 51 damage per second and have their movement speed and damage reduced by 10% per second, up to 60%, lasting for 1.5 seconds after leaving Frozen Tempest's radius.

While active, the duration of Crowd Control effects against Arthas are reduced by 50%.

The radius on this version is roughly 125% bigger.
The cooldown will require experimentation, as will the level 4 talents that lower it.
So this is my attempt to 'salvage' Frozen Tempest. This move is a huge part of the identity of Arthas, and I wanted to respect that, but I also think the move has simply become too situational. In this new form, I want it to really feel like the Escape from Arthas scenario that inspired it, turning Arthas into a nigh unstoppable force. However, this current cooldown is quite excessive... which is why the hero has a dedicated cooldown reduction talent tier just for Frozen Tempest. Ideally Arthas will be popping this during most major teamfights once he hits level 4.

I'm generally not fond of 'Relentless' (reduced CC time) effects, but in cases like Dragonqueen, I think they work well. The key to a good Relentless effect is that it needs to be clear when the effect is in play or not. Here, I've effectively baked some of Icecrown Fortitude into Arthas as a baseline mechanic, but now players will KNOW that it's active because of the big swirling vortex around him.

Primary Abilities

Death Coil
Cooldown: 7 seconds.
Mana Cost: 30 Mana.

Deal between 112 to 245 damage to a target enemy, increasing the closer the enemy's health is to maximum.

The Death Coil then returns to Arthas to heal him for the damage dealt.

This one is very controversial, and I could understand if people don't much care for it. My desire is to give this move more flavor and skill expression. As-is, the current version's only interesting attribute is the ability to top yourself off by self-targeting, and the fact that it doesn't require a skill shot, which aren't bad for identity, but also aren't great for actual gameplay.
This version forces Arthas to think on his feet a bit more, as every 7 seconds, you will need to decide where your health is coming from. Do you target the backliner who has full health for a big self-heal, or do you target the low-health target to help secure a kill?.

Consider: Removing or reducing the healing if the target isn't a hero.
Howling Blast
Unchanged, but Mana cost is now 60.

Why change what isn't broken? The cost decrease is just to compensate for the loss of the old trait.
Gorefiend's Grasp
Cooldown: 11 seconds.
Cost: 45 Mana.

Target a nearby enemy to drag them towards Arthas and instantly basic attack them. This basic attack will stun the target for .25 seconds.

The range on this move is comparable to a Rehgar mount dash, but probably lower than that. It's an applicable peel tool that can be popped at key moments to interrupt key enemies or secure kills.
Cannot target immovable targets (structures, unstoppable, etc.)

Heroic Abilities

Frostmourne Hungers
Cooldown: 20 seconds.
Cost: 50 Mana.

Activate to empower your basic attacks for 3 seconds, causing them to deal 75% additional damage and slow the target by 20% for 1 second.

❢ Quest: Every time Frostmourne Hungers damages a hero, its additional damage bonus is increased by 1%.

I folded a lot of functionality regarding the old trait and its talents into a single ability. The balancing will likely need a lot of work, but now a quest Arthas build is all tightly packaged into one ability.

This is somewhat of a placeholder, but since Frostmourne Hungers Arthas is a build lots of players enjoy, this one takes the attributes of that and puts it all in one place.
Summon Sindragosa

Flashy game-changing moves that manages to be useful despite its massive delay and straightforward counterplay? Awesome. Wouldn't change a thing.

Level 1 Talents

Basic abilities that let Arthas spec against the enemy's team composition.

Q: Deathlord - Increase the range of Death Coil by 30%.

W: Frost Presence - Unchanged.

Passive: Rime - Unchanged.

Level 4

Generalist or Utility Talents that also reduce the cooldown of Frozen Tempest. I'll probably revisit these numbers a lot as balance/gameplay/identity suggestions are thrown my way.

Trait (D): Frozen Wastes - Frozen Tempest restores 2 Mana every time it damages a hero. ? Quest: Every time Frozen Tempest damages a hero, permanently reduce its cooldown by .5 seconds, to a minimum of 40 seconds.

Trait (D)/Q: Outbreak - Hitting a hero with Death Coil causes it to deal 50% of its damage in a radius around the target. Hitting at least two heroes with Death Coil reduces the cooldown of Frozen Tempest by 4 seconds per hero hit.

Trait (D)/E: Death Grip - If Gorefiend's Grasp is used on a minion, it instantly kills that minion and refunds 50% of the cooldown and mana cost. Additionally, nearby enemy minion deaths lower the cooldown of Frozen Tempest by 3 seconds.

Level 7 Talents

Survivability Talents that come in a variety of options, giving either armor or health or both. Also, Army of the Dead is now here, with a renewed functionality.

Q: Immortal Coil - Death Coil can now target Arthas. If used in this way, he restores 215 health and gains 50 spell armor for 1 second.

Passive: Rune Tap - Every 3rd Basic Attack heals Arthas for 5% of his max Health. ? Gambit: Gain 30% increased attack speed. 5% of this bonus is lost on each death.
The Gambit has been added because Arthas can no longer consistently lock enemies within his AA range, but I didn't want this to be a mandatory pick with his R1 ability. This should add some friction that makes the two pair well together, but with an element of risk. Also it should stop ding-hungry players from running in and dying over and over, now that there's a penalty.

Active: Army of the Dead - Summon 3 Ghouls that last 10 seconds and attack for 20 damage. While alive, Ghouls grant Arthas 10 armor each. Reactivate Army of the Dead to Sacrifice the lowest health Ghoul and heal for 133 Health. Cooldown: 60 seconds.

Heroic Talents

Detailed above.

Level 13 Talents

Kill confirm tier to make foes fear being near the Death Knight.

Trait (D): Snap Freeze - 6 seconds after activating Frozen Tempest, all enemies in its radius take 123 damage and are rooted for 1 second.

W: Shattered Armor - Unchanged.

E: Tightening Grasp - The range of Gorefiend's Grasp is increased by 50% and its basic attack slows the target by 50% for 1.25 seconds.

Level 16 Talents

Power spike tier that goes in a variety of directions. Greatly increased CC, more damage, or increase the immediate power and availability of your Trait, in exchange for a slight flexibility reduction.

Trait (D) - Eye of the Snowstorm: The radius of Frozen Tempest is reduced by 25%, but it now applies its damage and effects twice as fast. Passive: Basic attacks against heroes reduce the cooldown of Frozen Tempest by 4 seconds.

Q: Embrace Death - Death Coil deals bonus damage to heroes equal to 5% of the main target's current health. Arthas is only healed for half of this damage dealt.
Note: This does not increase the explosion power of Outbreak.

W/E: Death is Inevitable - Hitting a hero with either Howling Blast or Gorefiend's Grasp reduces the other ability's cooldown by 5 seconds.

Storm Talents

Powerful endgame talents that can lock down heroes or deny them from making game-winning plays. While there was nothing wrong with Anti-Magic Shell, it was rendered somewhat redundant with how many ways Arthas can reduce incoming damage, so instead a go-for-broke alternative has been made in the form of Death Pact.

R1: Frostmourne Devours - Gain a second charge of Frostmourne Hungers. Basic attacks against heroes reduces Frostmourne Hungers' cooldown by 1.5 seconds.

R2: Absolute Zero - Unchanged.

Trait (D): Endless Winter - Gain 10% increased movement speed. Frozen Tempest's duration is reduced by 3 seconds, but the duration no longer decays if 2 or more heroes are within its radius.

Active: Death Pact - Arthas gains Protected for 4 seconds. If no enemy heroes die before the effect wears off, Arthas's health is set to 1. 20 second cooldown.

Final words

Well, that's all I've got for now.

The talents were somewhat thrown together, and I may come back to reshuffle them later, as I found that I was limited in what I could do with them, as every new talent tended to create limits in what others could do. For example, the new Endless Winter was a talent I wanted from early on, but it meant that I couldn't have too many powerful Trait talents without breaking creating a black hole of power once Arthas hits 20. As such, most of the trait talents have been designed to have a mix of strengths and drawbacks when considered in context with endless Winter.

So, what are the new strengths and weaknesses of this Arthas?
  • Death Coil is innately rubber-bandy. Arthas actually has a small advantage against uphill battles.
  • Arthas has lost a lot of his lane power, as he can no longer clear waves effectively, even when talented into it.
  • Arthas must pick and choose his targets with Q, sometimes requiring him to adjust his positioning so he can reach them.
  • Arthas has lost a small amount of identity in the form of no longer having access to easy out-of-combat mana/health restoration. While unfortunate, this was part of why people were playing him as a Bruiser rather than a Tank. That said, PvP sustainability is usually more fun in general.
  • However, a bigger loss of identity is in how Frozen Tempest now resembles a Heroic ability, having massive teamfight shifting applications. It's definitely a very big change, but one that I feel gives the move a lot more oomph. Instead of Arthas just sort of passively lowering the enemy team's physical damage numbers, he must pick a single big opportunity with which to negate an enemy team's plans.
  • Can Arthas actually tank now?
    • Can still use W to root.
    • E provides some displacement and an interrupt.
    • His trait denies area and lowers the speed and damage of the persistent.
    • The new Frostmourne Hungers creates dedicated "stay away from me unless you want a very scary endgame" pressure in a way the old quest really couldn't. Probably wouldn't actually play out that way, but it's something.
  • Arthas can probably tank now.

The biggest risk I see is in Gorefiend's Grasp being just a bit too good, as the move is effectively Kerrigan's grasp, complete with the ability to follow up with even more CC. I think, here, the absolute worst-case scenario would be if Arthas became a combo hero. Just walking in, then doing E into W for every engagement. This is the kind of thing a balance team would be able to sit down with and adjust things until such a combo becomes an option, rather than a gameplan.

Regardless, if you have any suggested balance/functionality changes, let me know.

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MrBr0s (1) | July 17, 2022 7:29am
I like the idea of Frozen Tempest feeling like a Heroic Ability, with its huge power AND cooldown, but i think it might make Arthas feel like he is too strong while it is active, but too weak when it is on cooldown. Using it to engage and combining it with his W and E to keep enemies in the danger zone would be very effective at scoring takedowns, or even escaping, but I'm afraid that once the effect is over, Arthas would have to spend too much time without enough survivability tools to make an impact as a tank, as even with some cooldown reduction mechanics, too much of his "tankiness" would be tied to those 6 seconds of glory.

Compared to his current QWE kit in the game, Arthas would have roughly similar self-healing, but would lose a lot of the survivability he has in the form of Attack Speed reduction in exchange for Gorefiend's Grasp's pulling effect. He is currently quite effective against melee-centric team compositions thanks to Frozen tempest, which works very well for a tank with low mobility. I think that the loss of Frozen tempest as a readily available Basic Ability would have the net effect of weakening Arthas agaisnt the Heroes he was good agaisnt, without making him that much stronger agaisnt others.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't support the change to Frozen tempest, I just think that Arthas should retain some of its survivabilty aspects for more than just 6 seconds every once in a while. Off the top of my head, I could suggest some kind of passive aura-debuff to Frozen Tempest that would keep some of its original power and flavor. A portion of Frozen Tempest's current effects could be a good start (15 damage per second and 15% Attack Speed reduction, for example), with some potential additional effects through talents. This would work well with his pullback and root and allow Arthas to remain the guy you never want to stay close to, like he always has been, but without the Movement Speed reduction and stacking mechanic, of course; that would be limited to the active part of Frozen Tempest.

All in all, I like the impact your version of Frozen Tempest has on teamfights, I just think Arthas needs to keep some of its defensive aspects more often if he wants to survive to longer exposure.
Murraythehuman (1) | July 18, 2022 1:23am
Overall, I do agree. My Arthas's base kit has fairly limited application for keeping himself active in teamfights. The level 7 talents are intended to help keep him alive, but I think after that he becomes just a fat body who can't really shift the tide of battle without his trait.

My original plan for the new Tempest was to make it something that you charged up (by dealing damage) and unleash, but I struggled to find a good way to implement it just because Arthas being so single-target oriented left little room for him to be able to earn things, it just encouraged him to use abilities as soon as they were off cooldown.

Right now what I'm thinking is, in my next run of changes, to revamp his level 1 talents to give him some extra disruption and/or survivability. I think, once he hits 7, his personal survivability is fine, but his impactfulness in teamfights is a bit more limited. I think, to fix that issue, I'd need to either rebalance Tempest again, or improve the level 1 options for Arthas, focusing on giving them effects that can protect his team.

Thanks for your comment!
FidgetingFly (2) | July 16, 2022 6:46pm
So I have a question that isn't really about this concept specifically.
When you're making a hero concept, do you start with a gameplay/mechanic idea, or a hero? I ask because usually I think about which heroes it would be cool to be able to play, and then try to develop a gameplay off of that, but maybe this is why my concepts always end up half-baked. So I was wondering if you start with an idea for a mechanic versus one for a hero (although this is a rework, so maybe's that different too).
Murraythehuman (1) | July 16, 2022 9:29pm
In the past, I've done both bottom-up and top-down designs, but almost always I'll start with a single central mechanic, playstyle, or ability that I use as an anchor-point for the hero. For example, Vorazun was a very vague concept of "character can only use abilities when they have weapon. Using abilities puts weapon on battlefield, effectively self-silencing after every ability. Must pick up weapon to use abilities again." That's a very gimmicky concept, but once you have something like that in place as the buildaround, things can often start falling naturally into place.

A central identity is important to just about any hero. For example, when making Deckard Cain, the Heroes team spent a lot of time thinking about just how they wanted him to operate, and decided on the idea that he would be a setup hero, one whose abilities take a while before they really get going. So they gave him two AoE moves with wide coverage but a long cast time, and his potions, which let him shift battles even more if he sets them up ahead of time. Then, in turn, I believe they came up with his trait as a way to undo the potential "can't reach the healer" frustrations, forcing him to get into the action properly if he wants to max out his healing, but in turn he has to put himself closer to danger (which all had the side effect of making him feel like an 'escort quest' character, adding to his flavor).

Looking at your own hero concepts, I think Cenarius probably has the strongest identity. A hero who builds up power with time, and wants to remain at that full power level for as long as possible, but will sometimes have to sacrifice that power in order to use their best ability. Now, for such a hero I'd probably also include a dedicated talent tier that allows them to charge up in another way (Autos, etc.), to add extra skill expression. I've written a full review on their page, just to get out some of my thoughts.

That said, I do think there's a limit to how far this idea can go in terms of informing what his other basic abilities do. Is Cenarius someone who pokes from afar until a critical moment? To that end, you could further push the identity of him as requiring other heroes to help him get the most out of his abilities (eg. A replacement for Q could have you dealing damage to everyone between yourself and a nearby hero, while you and your ally get shields). Though that's maybe not a very Cenarius thing to do.

But yeah, what you really want is an anchor point for your hero. What is the single central idea that everything else is baked around? What does that say about their gameplan? What would be most fun about this ability that you would want to emphasize? If this anchor point is really strong, what weaknesses will you put in to hold them back?
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